So you are a professional. A scientist, an engineer or a physician. You've seen fascinating things in your career, and you have a story of your own to share with the world. It's not really science fiction (or perhaps it is), but lots of technical details will go in your story. But in today's high tech world, it's all believable. So you're good to go.
But you've spent your whole life mastering quantum physics or orthopedic surgery or DNA analysis or making better wind turbines. Maybe you stopped studying 'English literature' right after high school. Your grammar and vocabulary are pretty good from taking various entrance exams. But you know nothing about writing a novel. And you really want to write the novel.
So how do you go about it?
Let's break this down methodically, scientifically.
Chances are, you've got an idea, a main concept for your story. It's the THEME. (Not the PLOT, which will be the topic for another day.)
What's a theme? Theme is the single unifying concept of the story. It's the underlying topic or message you want to send. Maybe it is 'love triumphs', or 'beauty is skin-deep', or 'technology can be dangerous in the wrong hands' or 'technology can save the earth'.
Now you've got your THEME.
What you need next is a PROTAGONIST, the person to whom things happen, and who does things to fix the issue, winning (or losing) in the end. Maybe you want to model that person on yourself. Hint: Strong female protagonists always draw sympathy in adult novels. But if the book is a sci-fi for kids, make him a boy.
Your PROTAGONIST should be a complex character, with quirks and all (no nose-picking, please). Maybe she likes Starbucks, or bites her nails, or is embarrassed by her stumpy feet. Whatever the quirks, the protagonist should be basically a good person, and being good-looking doesn't hurt. Let them have a long nose, but no squints. Full lips, and maybe slightly crooked teeth, but no gaps! Make the character believable. No one's perfect. If your character looks like Marilyn Monroe, chances are she doesn't need to go into science to make a living (!). There are exceptions, of course, and that's why you write about them. So give her a long neck, but perhaps make her self-conscious. Readers want to identify with the protagonists' inadequacies.
You can introduce depth in your character, slowly reveal their likes and dislikes as the story unfolds. You don't need an information dump right in the beginning.
You introduce your protagonist as a righteous person, content with their life, or right in the middle of action. If they are content, something must happen to make them to go out of their comfort zone and take action.
What happens to them and what they do next is the PLOT, the topic of next time.
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Sunanda Chatterjee is a practicing physician in Southern California. When she is not by the microscope making diagnoses, she loves to write fiction. Get her novel